Panel: Korean films need new approach to int'l

U.S too risky without distribution deal, Roy Lee says

SEOUL – Korean films need "universal storytelling and ideas" in order to adjust to the changing media environment where users view their content through international outlets such as YouTube, Facebook and mobile phone,” said Mike Suh, the director of international finance and production for CJ Entertainment, at a local film symposium.

In “Korean Film Going Global,” organized by the Korean Film Council, Suh stressed the need for capacity and infrastructure to produce global content in order for a Korean film to survive in the international market. A drop in international sales and the plague of film piracy, however, are adding challenges for the local film industry, he added.

Yunjeong Kim of a Seoul-based film company Finecut examined case studies of Korean films that were sold abroad and presented different tastes of film genres in each continent. For example, 96% of a Korean arthouse film “Lion’s Den” was sold to European film distributors while 92% of a film starring hallyu (Korean wave) stars “Lovers Concerto” was distributed in Asia.  

Kim added the following assets of marketing a Korean film: targeted approach, marketing films to fit the style of different film markets abroad, understanding the film’s selling point and uniqueness, expanding networking based on research and local infrastructure and building trust with distributors.

Roy Lee, the executive producer of Vertigo Entertainment, said more studios in the U.S. are producing fewer films each year with big budgets, instead using sequels, remakes or projects that are based on a pre-existing brands like comic books. He explained that this contraction of film production is mainly due to the dramatic increase in marketing costs in the U.S.

Lee also pointed dangers in international marketing, saying many producers rely on the film to eventually have a release in the U.S. market in order to cover for the cost when the chances of selling the film to a U.S. distributor tend to be limited.  

“It is too risky to produce a film that is primarily targeting the U.S. market without having a distribution deal in place,” he said. “It is not a good business decision to move forward on a film assuming that it will eventually sell to a major studio or mini major."
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